Jerusalem marks festive holiday of Purim in shadow of war

Tens of thousands of people have celebrated the Jewish holiday of Purim in Jerusalem, though the traditionally boisterous celebrations have been muted this year by the Israel-Hamas war

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JERUSALEM (AP) — Tens of thousands of people celebrated the Jewish holiday of Purim on Monday, though the traditionally boisterous celebrations were muted by the Israel-Hamas war.

Although many cities across Israel decided to cancel their Purim celebrations due to the ongoing conflict, Jerusalem held a traditional Purim parade for the first time in 42 years, featuring large floats of beloved children’s characters and fantastical creations.

Jerusalem celebrates the festival of Purim, which marks the victory of Jews over a tyrant in ancient Persia, one day later than the rest of the country.

Some people believe that Jerusalem should have canceled the "Unity Parade" and other Purim celebrations because of the war. About two dozen family members and supporters of the Israeli hostages being held in Gaza protested, chanting "Shame! Shame!" at the start of the parade.

“I know it’s tradition to be happy on Purim, but this year I think it’s tactless to do these carnivals,” said David Heyd, one of the protesters.

Other family members of the hostages kicked off the parade, marching silently at the front with a giant yellow ribbon and 134 folded yellow cranes, one for each of the hostages held in Gaza.

“My daughter, she needs to be here, she was supposed to be here. I am wearing a shirt she was supposed to wear, and I’m waiting for her,” said Meirav Leshem Gonen, whose daughter Romi has been held hostage in Gaza for 170 days.

Jerusalem transforms into a raucous festival during Purim. Families in colorful costumes throng the downtown, children eating copious amounts of traditional triangle cookies. Musicians set up on balconies overlooking the main drag and street parties in the stone alleys stretch into the evening.

“We’re showing the whole world and our enemies that we’re continuing to live, continuing to celebrate,” said Shabi Levy, a Jerusalem resident who watched the parade with his three children.

“It hurts a little, we have a lot of conflicting emotions, and the happiness in our heart has a tear in it,” he said, as the families of the hostages walked by.

Sara Sasi, one of thousands of people evacuated from northern Israel due to ongoing fighting with Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, said her family was still able to find the magic within the holiday, despite the uncertainty of when they would be able to return home.

“We have a lot of faith, and we know we can’t do anything about the situation, so it won’t help us to be upset,” she said.

“It’s complicated, we’re here half crying and half happy,” said Racheli Goldshtein, who watched the parade with her six children. “There’s so much sadness following us every day, whenever we get an opportunity to grab some joy we go after it.”

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